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“Twitter (& ‘Keynote Tweeters’) To The Rescue” In NZ Earthquake, Colorado Fires & San Bruno Explosion

September 13th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Gary Oldham from the blog, Wingineering, offers a nice case study and analysis of the use of Twitter during three recent emergencies — the New Zealand earthquake, Colorado fires and San Bruno gas explosion.

In this post, “Twitter to the Rescue: Social Media’s Evolving Role in Disasters,” Oldham highlights the role of “dedicated and thoughtful ‘keynote’ Tweeters who have led the charge and demonstrated real leadership in getting a lot of accurate information out to the world quickly and consistently.”

In the Boulder fires, Oldham notes the work of @laurasrecipes (”foodie blogger” Laura Levy) and @fishnette (University of Colorado professor Sandra Fish) “curating” scanner traffic and disseminating valid, credible information. He also gives props to Project EPIC whose TweakTheTweet initiative has provided “automated timelines and mapping of tweeted information about structures burned, evacuations, evacuation centers and other data on the fires in Boulder.”

A fire truck drives past a home destroyed by the Fourmile Canyon fire in Sunshine Canyon, west of Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010.

A fire truck drives past a home destroyed by the Fourmile Canyon fire (Associated Press photo).

In the San Bruno incident, Oldham also compliments the efforts of @firetracker2 who urged locals through Twitter to stay off their cell phones to keep the network available for public safety responders at the scene.

For those interested in Twitter and emergencies, I recommend reading the whole post which can be found here.

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Tags: Preparedness 2.0

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gary Oldham // Sep 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for the nice write up!

  • 2 Claire B. Rubin // Sep 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Once again, you have located interesting news that the rest of us were not likely to find. Many thanks.

    I cannot tell what city Oldham was located in. I also have talked to someone in Indiana who tried to help with essential information. I am curious as to whether out-of-towners do prove to be helpful.

  • 3 Gary Oldham // Sep 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I’m in a suburb of Austin, Texas.

    I think we’ll find quite often that people located remotely from an incident can actually be of great help if they have credible information sources, as those physically close to an event may be overly consumed with evaluating potential (or present) impact on their lives or situations, and may suffer from infrastructure outages, while those more distant may be in a better position to provide certain types of updates. Obviously, eyewitness accounts will only come from those on scene.

    I suppose even there we may see exceptions. A TV network in San Diego recently tweeted seeking area residents who may have photos of an in-progress wildfire to send them in. I responded with a link to an area webcam that had a good view of the fire, again from half a continent away.

    Lots of people far from Christchurch, NZ, really helped curate and spread the word in the aftermath of their earthquake as well.

  • 4 David Wild // Sep 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Gary, you just hit a nail on the head. I found it bizarre that I was sat at my computer in Indiana aggregating local resources for a fire in Boulder on my blog (, and even engaging with some residents who read the blog about very local matters such a location of shelters, etc. In some ways I felt like an imposter, but I got plenty of feedback it was helpful! In some ways those closest to the incident (esp emergency personnel) are going to be too busy with dealing with it on-the-ground to effectively get information out in a timely manner.

  • 5 David Wild // Sep 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Given the increasing number of articles relating to social media and the boulder fire, I’ve started another social media resource (blog) to keep track of them!

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